Rugby Union: Bourgoin brought crashing to earth

Bourgoin 18 Harlequins 30
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Pierre Dubois

Bourgoin 18

Harlequins 30

Fans can have odd views about their own clubs, but there was something charmingly original about the Bourgoin man who said his team was a bit like the Mir space station.

It was, he said, a wonderful invention but in urgent need of major repair. He also said that the Harlequins had no chance whatever of winning in the cauldron of Stade Pierre-Rajon.

A couple of hours and several glasses of Heineken later, a shrug of the shoulders said it all. Bourgoin had lost, not just the physical confrontation but the mind game that preceded it.

That probably happened when they lost the away encounter by 45-7 at The Stoop and, after being unbeaten for four years at home, they have now gone down twice out of three appearances this season.

The shift up from the European Conference to the Cup has been, admitted their captain Marc Cecillon, far more difficult than they thought.

Much attention was on the 20 per cent French content of Quins' starting line-up, partly because of the damage done by Thierry Lacroix and Laurent Cabannes last time, partly because left wing Laurent Belligoi played for Bourgoin until this season.

Lacroix kicked three penalties and three conversions, fired the crucial long pass to Jaimie Williams for Daren O'Leary's opening try and made some long territorial kicks.

Cabannes, shoulder injury or no, was the best back-rower on the park and both his tries showed sheer brilliance, especially the solo second.

Quins' coaching director, Andy Keast, was keen to emphasise how the team played for each other, especially during a period of high-pressure defence on their own line in the second half.

But it is the way this team is learning to pull together everywhere that should be flashing warning signals across the competition. Quins are unbeaten and have quietly set themselves the target of staying that way, first by winning all six Pool D games for a guaranteed home quarter-final.

Keast is optimistic. "We are showing the consistency, and, when our backs are against the wall, we are showing a bit more character than people thought we had," he said.

Bourgoin: Penalties: Geany 6. Harlequins: Tries Cabannes 2, O'Leary; Conversions Lacroix 3; Penalties Lacroix 3.

Bourgoin: N Geany (V Sounier, 78); L Leflamand, Y Bohu, S Glas, D Janin; G Cassagne, N Guilmot; P Vessiller (O Milloud, 36), J Martin-Colet, P Peyron, S Fischer, M Cecillon (capt), M Malafosse, P Raschi, J Frier (A Chazalet, 54).

Harlequins: J Williams (R Liley, 79); D O'Leary, J Keyter, J Ngauamo, L Belligoi; T Lacroix, H Harries; M Cuttitta, K Wood (capt), J Leonard, G Llewellyn, L Gross (D Allison, 54), R Jenkins, W Davison, L Cabannes.

Referee: D Bevan (Wales).